Love triumphs for soul-mates

George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow)''PA/Altitude Film Entertainment/Jeong Park
George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow)''PA/Altitude Film Entertainment/Jeong Park

LOVE IS STRANGE (15, 94 mins) Drama/Romance. John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez, Darren Burrows, Charlie Tahan. Director: Ira Sachs.

Released: February 6 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas in Aberdeen, Belfast, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Derby, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Norwich, Nottingham, Sheffield, York)

Strange, enervating, toxic, miraculous, unrequited, redemptive: love exerts an irresistible hold on the human heart. Greek philosopher Plato professed love to be a serious mental disease, while Martin Luther King Jr believed it to be the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.

Shakespeare poetically described love as a smoke made with the fume of sighs and as for songwriters Lennon and McCartney, it is the flower you’ve got to let grow or, most simply, all you need.

For filmmaker Ira Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias, love is a long-term relationship between two gay men set against the bustling backdrop of modern-day Manhattan.

Underscored predominantly by Chopin, Love Is Strange is an elegant character study, which sketches these middle-aged soul-mates with tenderness and heart-breaking intimacy.

Sachs’ film is illuminated by two exquisite performances from John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a married couple who are wary of relying on the kindness of family and friends because “sometimes when you live with people, you know them better than you care to”.

Familiarity breeds not just contempt but also disillusionment, suspicion and, ultimately, aching loneliness.

Ben (Lithgow) and his partner George (Molina) have spent almost four decades together.

They finally legalise their union in front of family and friends including Ben’s nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows) and wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), plus police office neighbours Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez).

Shortly after the happy day, George loses his job as a music teacher at St Grace’s Church and Catholic school in Manhattan because Facebook pictures of the honeymoon in Petra have been brought to the attention of the Archdiocese.

Without George’s steady income, the couple face the prospect of having to sell their highly desirable apartment.

George moves in with Ted and Roberto, while Ben seeks shelter with Elliot, Kate and their truculent teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan), who is far from thrilled about sharing his bunk bed with an elderly gay uncle.

Tomei, Jackson, Perez et al offer strong support, enriching their own dysfunctional yet equally loving relationships.

Love is a drug and regardless of the withdrawal symptoms, we all want to be addicts.

RATING: 8/10